Kanban vs. Scrum: Which to use?

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Two of the most popular agile frameworks for software development are Scrum and Kanban. But these have very different approaches to the concept and may not be equally suited to every project.
So what is it that makes them different?
Lets try to understand together!

What is Agile?

Agile is an umbrella term (often a vaguely defined term) used to describe a project management methodology which breaks down large complex projects into smaller manageable chunks, within which there are a range of frameworks and methodologies that can be applied, each of which have their own strengths and weaknesses, so even once you've decided to adopt an agile way of working, there are still decisions to be made about how to implement this inorder to speed up the completion of projects.

What is Scrum?

Scrum is an agile process that helps to deliver the business value in the shortest time by its rapid and repetitive inspections of actual working software. It emphasizes on teamwork and iterative progress of the software. Its goal is to deliver new software every 2-4 weeks.

The framework begins with a simple premise: Start with what can be seen or known. After that, track the progress and tweak as necessary.

What is Kanban?

The Kanban name comes from two Japanese words, “Kan” meaning sign or a visual, and “Ban”  meaning a board. Kanban is a visual signal that’s used to trigger an action. The word kanban is Japanese and roughly translated means “card you can see.”

Kanban is a visual system for managing work. It visualizes both the process and the actual work passing through that process. The main objective of implementing Kanban is to identify potential bottlenecks in the process and fix them. Kanban goal is that work flow should proceed smoothly at an optimal speed. 

An increasingly popular option, Kanban offers a number of key differences from Scrum. Designed by an engineer at Toyota to improve efficiency, it was originally created to facilitate just-in-time manufacturing strategies, but has proven highly useful for software development as well. It's based around workflows and scheduling, with the central focus being a board that visualizes the project's workflow and shows what stage of the process every individual task is at, with each distinct task having its own card.

When to use Scrum?

Scrum methodology is used in a project where the requirement is rapidly changing. It works on a self-organizing, cross-functional team principle. The Scrum Framework usually deal with the fact that the conditions are likely to change quickly or most of the time not known at the start of the project.

For projects where the low-level requirements are only defined at the beginning of time, scrum comes into the picture. In this methodology, changes and optimizations of product, requirements, and processes are an integral part of the project.

When to use Kanban?

Kanban software development method should be implemented if the team has a process which works fine but still needs some optimization. Kanban process allows them gradually improve all their tried and tested process.

Kanban boards allow visual management of software development project work. This helps team members to see work in progress. It also helps them to understand complex information like processes and risks associated to complete work on time.

Kanban boards prove effective as it helps team members to become more productive while reducing the amount of workload stress that project managers and team members feel during a project lifecycle.

Kanban can be customized to fit the processes and work systems your team and / or company already has in place. Once a work method has been either adopted or developed based on Agile principles, your team can begin using Agile tools like Kanban boards and project forecasting tools to help manage projects, workflows and processes in a way that works best for everyone.

Is Kanban Scrum?

When choosing between Kanban or Scrum, the individual distinction doesn’t always have to be considered because Kanban and Scrum can go hand-in-hand, just like being two sides of the same coin. When considering Kanban or Scrum, there are similarities, but there are many differences between Kanban and Scrum to consider as well.

In a project plan, everyone agrees on a larger plan, which is broken up into smaller chunks or pieces of work.. The team does the same set of activities in iterations performed in a dedicated manner. This is a good option at times, but if there is a delay, the entire project may come to a standstill. This may lead to the disappointment of the stakeholders expectation.

In Kanban, activities are not usually tuned together in such a way. Scrum teams using Kanban as a visual management tool can get work delivered faster and more often. Prioritized tasks are completed first as the team collaboratively decides what is best using visual cues from the Kanban board.Basically, Kanban can be applied to visualize and improve the flow of work, regardless of the methodology being used to do the work.

Scrum master acts as a problem solver, whereas Kanban encourages every team member to act as a leader and share its responsibility.

Scrum is an agile process that allows us to focus on delivering the business value in the shortest time whereas kanban, being a visual system, helps in managing software development tasks.

Scrum prescribes time-boxed iterations for its tasks whereas Kanban focuses on planning a different duration for individual iteration.

What do we conclude? 

 It's easy to point out the differences between scrum practices and kanban practices, but that's just at the surface level. While the practices differ, the principles are largely the same. Both frameworks will help you build better products(and services) with fewer headaches.


Craig Weiss 2 yrs

Whether it’s a Kanban or Scrum, Restyaboard is the best free tool for both. I have used Restyaboard for years now, so simple, so flexible, so easy!